To live and die in ballet

The ultimate musical mash-up

What happens when the artform of Diaghilev meets the digital age?

What happens when the artform of Diaghilev meets the digital age?

Sacramento Music & Contemporary Ballet Performing Arts Benefit, 7 p.m. Friday, September 14 with the Evening Episode, MothSpyEros, Dusty Brown and a special performance by Antoinette “Butterscotch” Clinton, $15 (general admission)-$50 (preferred seating). Sacramento Theatre Company Main Stage, 1419 H Street; (916) 443-6722;

Any shot at the mainstream that ballet once had was quickly thrown out the door (or grande jetéd, if you will, heh) in the ’80s by the movie White Nights, starring Gregory Hines, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Baryshnikov’s giant leotard bulge, which (not-so-narrowly) managed to garner more screen time than both actors combined.

It was certainly a sad time for ballet.

Then it came to light that fallen rapper Tupac Shakur aggressively studied the dance as a wee gangster, and thus was ballet’s street cred born, giving it the strong pimp hand it needed to bitch-smack the Macarena right back to Spain or whatever third-world country it came from. However, sadly enough, it could be argued that along with the rapper’s execution-style slaying, also came the demise, once again, of ballet.

Fear not. Ballet is back in the club. Or, it’s nearly back in the club—close enough to feel the texture of the bouncer’s velvet rope against its toned thigh, yet still not wearing the right clothes to attain VIP status. But make no bones about it, Baryshnikov—ballet is merely calculating, searching for the proper time to once again display its passionate moves in front of a captivated American audience, where it belongs.

That’s where Clay Nutting comes in.

Nutting is the West Coast regional director for Concerts4Charity; his latest event will raise money for children who don’t have the resources to participate in the performing arts. So, if you’re not into raising money for kids, you might as well stop reading right now and go back to heroin and baby-punching, because you’re definitely not going to be into this extravaganza of beauty.

But I digress.

Nutting and Zara Hayes, of the Pamela Hayes Classical Ballet Theater, have teamed up to create a one-night-only, mashed-up masterpiece that you’d be a fool to miss. Here’s the gist: Instead of classical, the music will be filled with computer rock by the Evening Episode, dark and dreamy soundscapes by MothSpyEros and drum ’n’ bass-infused folk-rock by Dusty Brown. It’s safe to say they’d all be screwed if the power went out. The bands, of course, will play their hits, but they’ve also composed original pieces written specifically for this event. All the while, the dancers will pas de chat their way into your little hearts. So everybody wins, you see.

Quick to dismiss any and every theory I have about her art, Hayes points to the lack of ballet education and the expense of going to see a live performance as possible reasons why the dance isn’t more in the spotlight—not Baryshnikov’s nether region. But where does Tupac fit in to all of this?

OK, forget it.

Better question: Will Friday’s show be enough to form a friendship between elegantly studied dance and unpredictable rock ’n’ roll? Unsure, Hayes is simply excited to blend new, local music with ballet for this unique event. “It’s going to be a very one-night-only thing,” she says politely (but “get a friggin’ ticket, you hell-bound ballet-haters” I think is what she means).

“I didn’t know how to write music for a ballet,” admits Evening Episode drummer/programmer Ira Skinner. And since he and the band haven’t rehearsed the set with the dancers, Skinner still isn’t quite sure what’s going to happen.

If that’s all not too overwhelming, Antoinette “Butterscotch” Clinton, the incredibly hot beatboxer from America’s Got Talent, will drop in for a special performance, where she’ll more than likely spit all over the microphone, creating an orchestra using only her mouth. Oh God, ballet is hot.

So maybe Hollywood will finally take note: You’re not doing ballet any favors by making movies like Save the Last Dance. It’ll take a little more than a bubbly blonde with a big heart and a soft spot for black people to give this art form the spotlight it deserves.

And this could be it—so be there as history is made. If not for the art, do it for the kids.